Muto No Kyojitsu (無闘の虚実)

From The Magick & The Mundane » Bujinkan by Shawn Gray


Back after a _long_ hiatus, with a brief post to explain the theme for two Bujinkan seminars I’ll be doing in January – Vancouver (Jan 4/5) and Houston (Jan 11/12). Maybe writing this will also spur me on to go back and pick up Path to the Heart of the Flower, a story that I began to write in early 2012. I also have some other ideas that I’d like to write about, but it’s hard to find the time. Thanks to those of you who keep asking me to write, as it helps to keep it on my mind and pushes it a little higher up on the priority list. :)

When the seminar hosts asked me about a theme for training, I thought back over some important things that Hatsumi Sensei focused on in Hombu Dojo Keiko this past year. The official theme of training as announced at the beginning of the year was Ken (劔), the straight, double-edged sword, but as often happens with Sensei, the theme had completely morphed by the second half of the year. In fact, we rarely used Ken at all in training for most of the whole second half of the year. I’m not sure the reason, but we somehow found ourselves doing a lot of Muto Dori (無刀捕り) work against both regular Katana (刀) and Bo (棒). Sensei continued to stress the central importance of Muto Dori throughout the end of the year, with much mention of the role of Kyojitsu (虚実) within Muto Dori movement.

Hell under the upraised sword . . .

Hell under the upraised sword . . .

I’ve always liked to cheer for the underdog. I like strategies and techniques that enable a physically weaker person to even the odds against a physically stronger person. That’s why I like Gyokko Ryu movement. Sensei emphasized the importance of this kind of movement a lot early in the year,  and especially at the Bujinkan Women’s Taikai in March. In fact, Sensei stressed that women’s self-defense was the last and greatest thing that he learned from Takamatsu Sensei, stating that this idea reflects the pinnacle of Taijutsu training. The use of weakness to defeat strength.

This idea is highlighted even further when the opponent has a weapon and the defender is unarmed. Facing a physically bigger, stronger opponent can be daunting enough as it is, let alone an opponent who’s trying to take your head off with a meter-long razor blade. Learning to deal with this type of situation is challenging for even the most skilled martial artists, which is precisely why Muto Dori should be practised with  proper Kihon (基本, fundamentals / basics), practised well, and practised often. The lessons learned can be applied not only to classical scenarios with swords, but also to modern situations where an opponent might have a knife, a stick, or virtually any other kind of weapon. Or no weapon at all – Muto Dori principles can just as easily be applied against unarmed attacks.

That brings me to the concept of Kyojitsu (虚実). That’s Jitsu (“fact, truth”) with an ‘i’, not Jutsu (“art, technique”) with a ‘u’. Different words, different meanings, different spellings. The word Kyojitsu is made simply by putting the Kanji for “lie” or “falsehood” next to the Kanji for “truth” or “fact”. False-fact. Lie-truth. How does this make any sense? This is a great term because the composition of the term itself teaches us about the nature of its meaning. That is, that its nature is illogical. By definition, it doesn’t make sense. It’s not supposed to make sense. Sensei often talks about common sense being of no use in a fight – that one needs to throw away common sense in that situation and adopt un-common sense. Fighting is crazy, and war is insane. Why should one human being want to harm another human being in the first place? Perhaps that’s the actually the root of the issue, but standing around philosophizing about it in an illogical situation will only get you cut down by that meter-long razor blade. There’s a time for thinking, and a time for doing. Standing unarmed in front of a sword-wielding attacker is not a time for thinking. People involved in serious accidents or other life-threatening situations often say that in the midst of the craziness, in the midst of the chaos, it was as if their mind shut off and they went on to auto-pilot. That is, they stopped thinking, and just acted. To many people, even the idea of stop thinking sounds illogical. How do you stop thinking? Not by thinking about stopping. Only by doing it. This concept don’t think, just act is essential to Muto Dori. To do this, of course, requires a lot of practise. Your body needs to know what to do when you put it on auto-pilot, and it learns what to do through repetition, training, and practise. A Gokui (極意, mystery / secret) of Muto Dori teaches this importance of doing:


Furi kazasu tachi no shita koso jigoku nare
Ichi to ashi susume saki wa gokuraku

Hell under the upraised sword,
one step forward is paradise

... step in, and Heaven is your reward.

… step in, and Heaven is your reward.

So let me see, this angry guy is brandishing a meter-long razor blade at me, and you want me to … what? Stepping in might sound illogical (not to mention dangerous). On the spot, it might seem to make more sense to turn and run away (when in fact turning your back could be even more dangerous). This daring to step in, this stepping forward instead of away, this doing, is one example of Kyojitsu.

In thinking about these ideas, I realized that there’s a Kanji meaning “fighting” that is also pronounced “To”: 闘. One can therefore write Muto the regular way (無刀), which means “without a sword”, and one can also write Muto as 無闘, “without fighting”. (Wouldn’t you know it – the day after I realized this about these Kanji, I discovered the same use of it in Sensei’s latest book, Ninja Taizen.) This kind of wordplay is another example of Kyojitsu – first the word means one thing, and then it means something else. Or, you think it means one thing, when in reality it means another.

So this is the type of concept that we’re going to be working with at the two seminars I’ll be teaching in January – “Muto Dori – Muto No Kyojitsu” (無刀捕り:無闘の虚実). I guess you could also call it, “Head-scratching non-combative unarmed responses to armed attacks” if you like. :-) I hope this short article has helped to shed some light on the ideas behind the theme. If you’ll be in Vancouver or Houston during the dates listed above and would like to attend, please contact me on Facebook or by email at, or contact the seminar host directly via the Facebook page.


The secret of Muto Dori is achieving a state of non-combat.
The secret of Taijutsu is to know the path of peace.
~ Hatsumi Masaaki Soke ~

Are Ninjas on Santa’s Naughty or Nice List?

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael Glenn

Santa Claus in 浦和 Urawa, photo Michael Glenn
Dear Santa,

I've been a good Ninja. I don’t bite my nails. I won't ask you for much, but I just want to see if these letters work. Some other Ninjas are getting smarter people to write their letters, but I write my own.

This year I trained really hard, so

I want a grappling hook and a ninja-to and an axe but my mother said that I have to stop throwing rocks and fighting.

Please bring us a new Hombu Dojo, or keep the old one standing.

I would like a throwing star and some nice things to eat. I am very fond of pie.

Please bring a smoke bomb. Uncle Wade said that he would make one but he has not done it yet and I don't believe he will

I want a bank that you can't open so mama won't spend my money.


I was very good and went to train in Japan three times this year, so

Please don't put my axe in my stocking for you might stretch it.

Bring my little brother Andrew something or else he'll punch my cat's eyes out.

Give some Christmas spirit to all of the Bujinkan, so we all can be a great family around the world.

I want you to bring me a sword that won't break when my brother Andrew throws it. You needn't bring Andrew anything. He's bad.


I also completed all of my Ninja missions this year

I have a cat named "Zachy." Please put some chipped beef and waffles in his stocking for he is a good cat.

Please show me how to travel through chimneys so i can visit and train with my Bujinkan friends all over the world.

For Xmas I want a shikomi, a big red set of yoroi, and some boxing gloves so I can whip Andrew.

Please bring me a few of Soke's videos, and a new baby sister--one that don't squall and make a fuss all the time.

By the way, our fire place is all stopped up. Just ring the bell and I will let you in and show you where the stockings are.

These are some of the things I want, too many to list them all. PM me and I can tell you the rest. Don’t pay any attention to those other letters I wrote you.

That is all. Please don't bring us another baby brother.

Your friend,


inspired by and plagiarized from vintage Christmas letters on @TweetsofOld

A fantastic day part 1

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

2013-11-01 18.46.50Sunday will stay in my memory as one of these days that makes life enjoyable.
The sky was blue and the weather good, the air crispy. I attended the first class of the day with Noguchi who did his magic again, using the 3rd level of Shinden Fudô Ryû. As he has been doing it how for nearly a year he revisit these well known Techniques but twists them in a new manner so much that I’m totally lost. I love it!
We did some donkey kicking (uma geri?) in all directions to Uke’s legs (front or back leg) with both hands on the ground and also hiting the body at tenchijin levels depending on the distance.
We did some “shoehorn” technique where we hit butsumetsu with the forefinger turning it into a fist after impact. Some kind of Niken waza.
We used the whole karada (body) turning inside or outside uke in a Uzumaki sort of move and delivering multiple hits: fist, elbow, fist…

Then it was sensei’s class.

Unlike his usual behavior, sensei began the class without asking anyone to demonstrate. He was in a very good mood as it is often the case with him around his birthday.

Receiving the punch he merely stepped forward and outside shielding the attack with the whole body. He said again that the theme of the year was Muto dori and that was not about defending yourself unarmed when facing a weapon. It is about moving fearless into the attack in a Mushin state of mind. The key to Muto Dori is to go toward the attacker with your guts.
Sensei said that every move is like a triangle where uke and Tori represent the first two angles. Now the third angle is kukan or zero and this is not simply the interaction between the first two, no it is something more complex that is not definable. This world of the 3rd dimension, Sanjigen no Sekai is what the bujinkan has been working on since the discovery of juppo sesshô in 2003.

Your intention or the lack of it moves the opponent by triggering or destroying any of his abilities making him move like a puppet, Tori being the puppet master.

Muto dori is definitely the expression of natural power.

Please read part 2 and 3

Seishin no Jutsu

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

2013-12-01 12.14.47Last night we had a very good class with Sôke where he spoke a lot about concepts. Seishin no jutsu 精神 の 術 was the general idea he tried to convey.

Seishin means: mind, soul, heart, spirit, intention, and I have to admit that the variety of these meanings are all true.
When sensei moved it look like he was doing nothing, playing only with uke’s mind. I was lucky to be uke a few times and each time I had the feeling I was totally lost. There was no danger, sensei was not violent, on the contrary, he was very relaxed as if not concerned by my useless attempts to get him.

He explained later that this Seishin no jutsu was based on the concept of kyojitsu no Kûkan 虚実 の 空間, or to put it in other words, to understand the 虚実混交, kyojitsu konkô, “a mishmash of truth and untruth, a mixture of fiction and fact”. By “making believe” that reality is not and conversely, Sensei makes his uke react in a way that is always detrimental to his survival. Interacting with Inyo, and time and space at the same time, Sôke destroys our willingness to fight.

We have to develop this ability to act without intention (seishin) and not give any strength to the opponent. When sensei was demonstrating he said that it is done without grabbing but applied with the whole body. The difficulty is to “move” the attacker without really using force.

This is when sensei added one extra level to his Seishin no jutsu by speaking of Zero no chikara  ゼロ の 力 or 無 の 力, the power of Zero. The power of zero is what is experience when we take the Sakki 殺 気 test.

In fact after this class I begin to understand the simple complexity of Hatsumi sensei’s vision. The bujinkan is about releasing the “natural movement ” and this is achieved when we are always one i.e. zero at the Sakki level.

Good luck!

反応 映像 Hannou Eizou: Fear on Repeat

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael Glenn

Hatsumi Sensei gets into Michael Glenn's head. photo by
Last week in class with Hatsumi Sensei, he remarked that this year's theme is really hard. What he meant was not that it was particularly hard for him, but that it seemed hard for all of us to understand it. During all my classes with him this year, he has provided glimpses, feelings, and filled me with images of what he is leading us to in training. I think this type of imagery is the point in itself and a strategy for fighting.

For many years, Soke has been advising us to move beyond common sense and technique. To do things that can't be understood. Because this type of fighting cannot be countered. It is a very Ninja strategy.

So I was watching him get his ukes to jump this way and that around the hombu tatami. They were filled with pain, but also great mental confusion. In most cases they appeared to be fighting themselves. How do you get opponents to fight themselves? To do the work for you so you can just play?

Soke gave us a tip that night that he described as 反応 映像 hannou eizou. You use the image of your opponent's reaction or response. Use the image that this creates in their mind. So they are fighting a mirage. Their own imagination.

No enemy is more frightening than the one hidden in the dark corners of the mind. This is why Ninjas were so scary. Their invisibility and mystery left only people's imagination to fill in the blanks.

Soke told us that to be able to do this in training you must simulate reality so that you'll be able to face it. Free up your imagination this way. He said that it is crucial that you get to a place where you are not trying to fight. You are not trying to do harm. You just keep going.

Have this relaxed state of mind to keep going in the midst of danger. Not denying reality. But staying calm enough to see images or having this kind of imagination that will carry you beyond danger.

The moment that you decide to fight back, that is where you will fail. Hatsumi Sensei said that if your mind is working too hard, it's just like you are whiting out everything. This kind of blindness to reality will make you the one fighting imaginary enemies. And they are really hard to kill.